Providing health care to children, women and families is first priority
By Sandar Linn
Laputta, May 21, 2008 - Her house has been devastated and her life turned upside down ever since a ferocious cyclone pummeled Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady delta.
But mid-wife Daw (Ms) Myint Myint Yi, has put the misery aside – instead walking camp by camp, carrying an insulated UNICEF vaccine carrier, immunizes children against measles and pregnant women and injured cyclone survivors against tetanus.
The cyclone, which struck Irrawady delta May 2, did not make an exception for her house, located in a small riverside town in Laputta, either.
“The wind took away my roof and we had to run to a neighbor’s house to escape,” Myint Myint Yi said. “We waited until the cyclone stop just to go back and find out that my house was totally collapsed. We have nothing left but luckily my family survived.”
Even so, Myint Myint Yi went back to work the day after the catastrophe because the township’s hospital was packed with more than 500 people at the out-patient department.
Myint Myint Yi works as one of the roving vaccinators who traveled shelter to shelter in Laputta to vaccinate children, as young as nine months to five years old, against measles.
“The health and the well-being of children and their families are the priority,” Myint Myint Yi said. “Although I am homeless now, I cannot ignore them. Children need to get measles vaccine since there could be a measles outbreak in a situation like this.”
More than 1000 children are vaccinated with measles
Since the catastrophe, Myint Myint Yi and other health workers have vaccinated more than 1,000 children against measles, with the support of UNICEF and Ministry of Health. In addition, at least 4,000 tetanus immunization was given to pregnant women and the injuries in Laputta township.
In Laputta alone, there are more 40,000 people living in 49 temporary shelters.
“Measles is very contagious and a critical infection,” said Osamu Kunii, Chief of Health and Nutrition, UNICEF Myanmar. “It could cause massive death among children if an outbreak occurs in such settlements, where many children are not immune it.”
Dense population in temporary settlements is one of the factors for any potential outbreak, including measles which is already widespread in all age groups of Burmese in the normal time, Kunii said.
Pre-cyclone statistic from the Mass Measles Campaign in Laputta conducted last year showed that 92.70 per cent of aged 9 months to 5 years, which was 44,021 children were immunized against measles.
“Since measles is a preventable disease, we have to immunize children as quick and as many as possible,” he said.
Delivering health supplies
The health workers also provided other treatments to people at the shelters for minor illness such as coughing, fever, and diarrhea with medical supplies supported by UNICEF.
UNICEF continues to send health supplies such as essential drug kits and first aid kits to the villages, temporary shelters and hospitals in the affected areas.